[SOLVED] Nitpicking on prepositions

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Moderator in shock
Joined: 27.06.2016
Pending moderation

Dear native and fluent English speakers, I need to pick your brain.
I wonder how do you understand in general the phrase "a song to somebody/something"? And is there any difference to you between it and "a song for somebody/something"?
Thanks!

Super Member
Joined: 26.01.2016

In general everyday speech, I'd say the difference is minor. However, there can be subtle distinctions depending on context. For example: "I want to sing a song to you," seems to mean more that I want to sing any particular song to you. It doesn't matter what song, because what's important is that I just want to sing to you.

"I want to sing a song for you," on the other hand, gives me the sense that I have thought about singing this particular song in advanced. It's a pre-meditated act of singing. Wink smile

To know for sure though, I'd say it depends on context and that in the quick-and-dirty world of everyday speech, the difference will probably be minor.

Super Member
Joined: 13.07.2016

Wonderful how English can have different meanings, more or less redundant.

Moderator in shock
Joined: 27.06.2016

Thanks! In a sentence it can be rather easy to get at least some context. But what if it is the sentence as in a title of a song and an object is country's name?

I didn't want to color one's judgment by a more detailed question. What I want to achieve is "a song dedicated to something/somebody", but without "dedicated" within. Wink smile

Will it change anything?

Editor /Languages Advocate
Joined: 18.10.2015

Yes, Ivan, it's surely "A Song For You" Regular smile

Super Member
Joined: 26.01.2016

In this case, I would say, "A Song Written for X." To me, that means that it was specifically written for and dedicated to a particular country. Regular smile

Super Member
Joined: 26.01.2016

Also, you can leave out the "Written" like @sandring suggested: "A Song For Country X" is just fine. Regular smile

Editor /Languages Advocate
Joined: 18.10.2015

I believe, the difference is like this
I'll sing a song to you = I'll sing you a song, tell you a joke, show you a picture (emphasizing an action)
I'll sing a song for you = I'll sing a song (meant only) for you Regular smile

Super Member
Joined: 26.01.2016

Yes, that sounds about right to me. Regular smile

Moderator in shock
Joined: 27.06.2016

Thanks again, Nadia and Taylor! My mind had it all reversed somehow. Wink smile
But distinguishing between "to" and "for" in other situations regularly gives me a headache too.

Super Member
Joined: 26.01.2016

Anytime. Regular smile

Editor Francophony
Joined: 14.10.2014

It's subtle but to my mind a song "for" someone is written for that person, a tribute to them, in memory of them, inspired by them. But they may not necessarily hear it.

A song "to" someone is a message directed to them, in the hope that they will hear it and respond, or be affected by it.

that's just my interpretation of course

I think for your purpose I would use 'For'

Moderator in shock
Joined: 27.06.2016

And I, don't know why, thought a tribute would be "to" (because of "tribute to", "dedicated to") and simple addressee would be "for". Oh well, the natives know better. Wink smile

Senior Member
Joined: 13.04.2017

Ivan, you may better understand the subtlety if you consider the existence of these two English expressions:
1. to listen to
2. to listen for

Super Member
Joined: 07.11.2016

Oh, you mean like this one?: http://lyricstranslate.com/en/mary-black-song-ireland-lyrics.html (It's a Phil Colclough song originally though) Regular smile

Editor Francophony
Joined: 14.10.2014

Or, to quote Elton John:

"My gift is my song
And this one's for you"

Regular smile

Moderator in shock
Joined: 27.06.2016

Yeah, something like that or this: http://lyricstranslate.com/en/песен-за-българия-pesen-za-bylgarija-song-.... I was trying to find a better translation of the title. The song by itself isn't giving any clue what was the intended by the title, but in a concert there was a clear message of dedication in the announcement of the song.

Moderator in shock
Joined: 27.06.2016

Oh, I've understood it already, it's just that the nuances were swapped in my head, but now they are unswapped. Nevertheless thanks for the most obvious example!

Moderator & Linguistics afficionado
Joined: 05.04.2012

And this is just one of the many reasons why I hate English prepositions Tongue smile

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